When it comes to finding the right job, your chances of being noticed by employers or recruiters is often directly proportional to the time and care you invest in preparing your resume and cover letter, applying to jobs, and preparing for the interview.
Doing your due diligence before an interview by researching the job opportunity—and your potential employer—is an important aspect of this process that shouldn’t be overlooked. After all, potential employers are doing their own due diligence, which often includes peering into candidates’ social media accounts and blogs (psst…check out these five ways to streamline your digital presence). Doing your own research will help you discover if the opportunity is a good fit, and prepare you to ask intelligent and informed questions in the interview. Your interviewer will see that you’ve done your homework, and that you have a genuine interest in what the company does and your potential place there.
Here are six ways to find out what a potential employer is all about, so you’re prepped and ready when the big day arrives.
1. Scour the company’s website—and take notes.
As the “home base” of a company’s digital online presence, their website is often a gold mine of information where you’ll find out more about a company’s history, mission, vision, values, and people—and even about what it’s like to work there. You’ll also likely find a “news” area with links to press releases and articles, which may include news on acquisitions, mergers, or company milestones.
What you’re looking for: Gaining context around what your potential employer is all about is key here. You’re trying to get a “big picture” snapshot, while also gathering information on key details that may come up in an interview, or that will simply serve as knowledge for your own decision-making needs.
Look for answers to these questions:
What makes your potential employer stand apart? What’s unique and different about what they offer?
How did the organization get its start, and what’s unfolded since that point?
Does their mission and the values they strive to uphold align with yours?
What is the company’s vision for the future, and how might your potential role fit into the bigger picture?
Can you see yourself integrating into the company culture? Take a look at the benefits and a typical “day in the life” to put yourself in the shoes of someone who works there.
As you go through the website, write down any questions that come to mind. Answers may come up naturally during the interview, but you’ll have some thoughtful questions in your back pocket to ask and consider either way.
2. Read up on the company blog.
Many organizations have a blog, which you can typically find through their website navigation, or by Google-searching “(Company name) blog.” They may even have several blogs, all geared to different audiences.
While the company’s website itself is more a snapshot of what they’re all about and what they want to communicate to the general public, an organization’s blog is often a more fluid and intimate peek inside the company culture, revealing what’s top of mind.
What you’re looking for:Read through the blog to get a taste of general company news, announcements, and product launches, as well as deeper and more specific knowledge-sharing, thought leadership pieces, and business dissections, depending on the type of industry or organization.
Many times, these articles are written by people who know the organization inside and out. You may read about company direction from the president; product innovations from product managers; or insights about technology trends from the CTO. Other times, blogs are simply a great way to get an insider pulse on what may be important to the organization or its chief audience. Questions generated from blog posts you read can be great conversation starters in an interview.
3. Follow social media accounts.
Check the company’s website to see if they include links or icons to their associated social accounts. You’ll usually find these on the website’s home page. If you strike out there, conduct some searches on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and YouTube to find and follow active (and official) accounts.
What you’re looking for:Seek out company news and other timely information that your potential employer is publicly communicating. What they choose to share socially will give you a sense of what they consider important to their audience, and also about what they hold dear as a company. If you’re looking for an employer that participates in philanthropic efforts, for example, you’ll want to search for posts about their volunteerism efforts. An organization that posts about its volunteerism is likely community-minded and holds this as an important value.
Observe how engaged they are with their followers, and how they respond to positive and negative feedback. Organizations that respond to feedback thoughtfully and change course when needed indicates that they care about doing what’s right by their customers.
Ensure that you’re staying on top of the latest news by setting up notifications, as well as Google alerts for the company. Interviewers will be impressed that you can speak confidently to a recent company tweet or comment on a timely news item that popped up in your email.
4. Scope out LinkedIn profiles of company leaders and employees.
With this research, think less creepy and more curious. If you know the name of the person interviewing you, look them up on LinkedIn and make note of their duties, professional interests, and other aspects of their profile that you could bring up in an interview. In addition, jot down notes for profiles of members of the leadership team and others at the company with whom you could potentially be working.
What you’re looking for:Similar interests, or something that you found particularly compelling. “I noticed you went to Notre Dame. I majored in business technology there.” or “I’ve gotten so much out of the local UX design group on LinkedIn; I noticed you were an online member as well.” These types of kernels can spark a bigger conversation that more naturally leads an interviewer down your career path, credentials, and fit for the role and, in turn, you’ll learn a lot more about them.
You’ll also get a more complete picture of day-to-day duties of potential co-workers, the clubs and associations they’re connected with, articles they’ve recently published, and tenure at the company. If nothing else, you’ll put faces to names before an interview, and people will see (if you have notifications turned on) that you’ve looked at their profile and taken the time to find out more about them.
5. Read company reviews.
Company review sites such as Glassdoor can be a valuable part of your overall research, as they can offer another look at company culture, benefits, quality of life, career advancement opportunities, salaries, leadership, and even sample interview questions, through the words of actual people who have worked there (or who are still working there). Glassdoor calls this “employee-generated content.”
What you’re looking for:While you’ll want to read reviews with a grain of salt, they can help you gain a clearer picture of the overall company story, and answer questions like:
Is leadership’s communication strong and consistent?
Do employees often complain of getting caught in silos?
Is advancement and professional development commonplace and encouraged, or do reviews about a lack of career-pathing often pop up?
Do the company and its CEO enjoy a high level of trust from employees?
These are invaluable questions, and you can’t get much more real than by hearing from people with firsthand knowledge. Be cautious about bringing up negative information in an interview, however. Blurting out, “Why do so many employees give you negative Glassdoor reviews?” is usually not advisable and will put an interviewer on the defense. As you close in on a job offer, more detailed—yet tactful— questions around employee satisfaction are certainly appropriate and may be necessary.
6. Check out the competitive landscape.
It’s important to be aware of and able to speak to the industry landscape, and to understand who your potential employer’s biggest competitors are within it. Sites like Crunchbase will give you a closer look at a company’s size, investments and funding information, key leadership figures, mergers, industry trends, competitors, and more.
What you’re looking for: Context about the company’s place in the broader industry landscape, and a closer look at the “business side” of things. You’ll be better able to discuss industry trends or ask about a recent merger in an interview if you’ve done your homework.
A last word, Nancy Drew It’s important to align your priorities with a new employer before you dig in. What do you want, and what will make you run the other way? Consider your core values, the type of work you’d like to do, the kind of culture you’d mesh with, and the sorts of people you want to work with. Once you’ve established your key priorities, you’ll have a clear vision of your ideal employer as you begin your research.